Friday, September 25, 2009

More Moyaone!

Anne and I are currently in the process of pulling and analyzing all of the lithics and Aboriginal pottery excavated from units during the 2009 Field Session. Once we have completed this task we will be better able to interpret the Native American component at Port Tobacco and report our findings. An important part of this activity is identifying Aboriginal pottery as different types of wares correlate with different time periods. So, what better time than now to begin reviewing the common types of pottery we encounter and how we identify them!

The type I will focus on today is called Moyaone. As we have previously written blogs on this type you may be familiar with its characteristics. This pottery consists of a very fine paste and smooth surfaces with fine sand, finely crushed quartz, and mica used to temper the clay. The dead giveaway that a piece you are examining is Moyaone is the presence of small grains of mica that sparkle in the light. This particular piece is quite nicely cord-decorated, and also happens to be a rim. It was found in Stratum 1 of Unit 60 in the Compton Field. This is a fairly recent pottery type, dating to the Late Woodland period between AD 1300-1650. Vessels made of Moyaone are generally medium to small in size.

The methods we use to identify pieces of Aboriginal pottery are fairly basic, but require lots and lots of practice. One important aspect to examine is the surfaces of the sherd--are they smooth, grainy, decorated, plain...? Another area to analyze is the temper, which breaks down into five main categories--sand, steatite, crushed quartz, gravel, and shell. Different types of Aboriginal wares have different percentages of these materials in the clay. There are additional techniques that also assist in identification, such as the size, thickness, and shape of the sherd, as well as any markings on the interior and exterior of the vessel that indicate how it was formed.

Stay tuned for more postings about Aboriginal pottery!


Scott Lawrence

This week I turn the spotlight on PTAP team member Scott Lawrence.

I've been working with Scott since 2003 when he approached me with the lunatic idea of restoring a completely buried cemetery. Apart from the sheer scale of the undertaking, there was the added problem of dealing with not one, but two government bureaucracies...state and federal...because the cemetery in question sits smack in the middle of the Patuxent River Naval Air Station in St. Mary's County. Neither bureaucracy, at the outset, was keen on a grassroots, amateur effort at restoration; but nor was there any prospect of a well-funded, professional restoration effort of this cemetery which had been demolished in advance of base construction in 1943.

As it turns out, the St. Nicholas Cemetery Restoration Project became a professional undertaking as Scott sought the training necessary to properly repair the many broken monuments (more than 100). Here Scott is pictured with one of the first, if not the first monument that we re-erected at St. Nicholas...the grave marker of John Albert Edgeston, an African American infantryman who died soon after his return home in 1919.

Scott has undertaken restorations at a number of cemeteries in the region since we began the St. Nicholas project and, when he isn't digging with the PTAP team, he passionately promotes the preservation and restoration of cemeteries. We anticipate completion of the restoration in the next few months, six years after we began, re-erecting over 200 monuments.


Thursday, September 24, 2009

Vile Vials

Today I rejoined Anne in her efforts to catalog the 1970's Port Tobacco Artifacts. While much of our time was spent deciphering fragments of information regarding where these artifacts were found, we also did some research regarding two nearly intact glass vials. This is quite exciting as we generally encounter glass vessels in hundreds of tiny pieces.

The first vial, on the left in the image, is roughly 4 inches tall. Its defining features include a side mold seam running from the bottom and up the lip and a cup bottom mold seam. These seams are created by the molds used to form glass vessels. The only mark on the bottom is a "3-1." The presence of those two mold seams suggests that this is a machine-made vial and likely dates to the mid-20th century. The unique shape of the vial resembles that of an inkwell, but the small mouth and size suggests that it more likely held perfume.

The second vial is little more than 3 inches tall. This vial also has a side seam and was made in a cup-based mold. However, the side seam does not extend to the lip of the vessel. This lead us to believe that it was either mouth-blown or handmade rather than machine-made. Also, right above where the mold seam ends there are faint horizontal lines which indicate that the vial was hand-wiped near the lip for a more precise shape, which is called a tooled finish. The vial also has no air-venting marks. Air venting marks occur when the mold in which the bottle is blown has venting holes. Also, the vial was sealed using a cork. How do all of these small bits of information assist us? Well, they help to place the vial's date within the late 1800s. It was probably used for either pharmaceutical purposes or household products, such as shoe polish.

So, while neither of these artifacts may be very old, it was certainly interesting to have the chance to work on dating methods for glass vials. If you are interested in glass bottles or vials in general, this website aided us greatly in our research:

Kelley and Anne

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Just a Spoonful

Cataloging of the 1970s excavation artifacts is almost finished, but my last bag of the day included these two spoon fragments.

Both are made of latten (pronounced lateen), which is a type of copper alloy used until the 19th century.

The smaller one is the bowl and drop (where the stem and bowl meet). It is about the size of my thumb and may have been a sugar spoon. The other is just the stem and shoulders. Only a slight curve reveals it to be part of a spoon.

Both were found somewhere between the Courthouse and the Creek.


Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Whopper of a Chopper

The 1970's Port Tobacco material and its missing site information have given us here in the lab a few headaches. Today's artifact could cause a serious one, if you got hit in the head with it. One of our largest lithic tools recovered so far, this core- chopper is one and half pounds of solid quartzite. It is 4.5" long, 4.3'' wide, and 2.2" high. This may not sound very large but consider that most of our lithics have dimensions under 2" and weigh under 2 ounces.

This piece of quartzite was knocked off a larger stone, giving it a large, smooth facet on the bottom. As a core, many flakes were removed around the top to make smaller tools. By removing flakes, the edges became sharper and it could be used as a chopper to process vegetation for food or fibers, and generally break down various objects.


Monday, September 21, 2009

Wrestling with 3D

With Kelley out of town, cataloging is on hold and I am learning some new skills. Today I took a sherd from a tin glazed punch bowl (top) and turned it into a complete 3D image using AutoCAD(bottom).

The first step in the process was to create an accurate drawing of the sherd (center). Using a radius template, I found the radius of the bowl rim and the foot-ring. I measured the height as well. I then sketched the outside and inside of the bowl using these measurements and a mixture of tracing and freehand. I also free handed the painted decorations as best I could. The drawing was scanned onto the computer and imported as a 'raster image' into AutoCAD. From there I had to trace the imported image so I had a series of lines and points that could be manipulated. I made the surface of the bowl with decorations and the profile of the thickness of the bowl separate images.

AutoCAD took the profile and swung it around 360 degrees on its center axis, like drawing a circle with a compass. Add a surface rendering and there was a three dimensional image of the punch bowl as it would have looked in its entirety (without decorations and surface variations). I moved the traced decorations into place on this image and voila! Finished!

Of course in recounting this process, I have glossed over all the erasing, undoing, head-scratching, and computer defenestration. But with help from Jim, I am quite happy with the results. I will continue to tweak the image and whose knows where it will eventually end up?